Franck: Prélude, aria et final; Prélude, fugue et variation; Sonata in A (Violin Sonata, transcr. Cortot)

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Franck
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Prélude, aria et final; Prélude, fugue et variation; Sonata in A (Violin Sonata, transcr. Cortot)
PERFORMER: Yukie Nagai (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1056
This is a slightly perverse programme, beginning with the less well-known of Franck’s two piano triptychs and coupling it with arrangements. Thankfully, in adapting the Prelude, Fugue and Variation (originally written for organ), Ignacy Friedman did little of the grotesque padding out that Busoni did with Bach, and Yukie Nagai uses the sustaining pedal discreetly. However, she doesn’t quite manage to float either the Prelude or its Variation, which remain a bit earthbound. The recorded piano sound doesn’t help either, because it’s too thin and cool – you wouldn’t have guessed she had been a pupil of Wilhelm Kempff, though, admittedly, pupils are rarely like their teachers.

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Cortot’s arrangement of the Violin Sonata works well, as indeed it should in view of the substantial piano part in the original version. Nagai gets round the challenging second movement quite capably, but her pianism is no more than functional and much more could be made of the music by a pianist with a more varied touch, greater reserves of strength, and more imagination.

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As for the Prelude, Aria and Finale, a much warmer feeling and sense of communing with the divine is achieved by the young Ashley Wass on his Naxos disc. Adrian Jack